"It is indeed bad to eat apples. It is better to make them all into cyder." Benjamin Franklin
In recognition of the Jewish holiday of Passover where Jews shun beer and other wheat and barley products as a symbolic remembrance of the exodus from Egypt, I'm steering this weeks blog to Hard Cider. I'm certainly no Talmudic scholar and I don't profess to know if Hard Cider is actually an acceptable drink if you are deeply observant, but I like it and it has none of the ingredients that I try to stay away from during Passover. If you need clarification, try your Rabbi, as I suspect my opinion on this matter is essentially worthless.
Hard cider is simply fermented apple juice and is a wonderful alternative to a beer when you want something sweet and delicious. There are also hard ciders made from pears and these are called perry. Like beer, there are loads of different styles, from dry to sweet and with added flavors like ginger, or honey or maple syrup. The type of apple used also imparts its own flavors as does where the orchard is and where the apples (or pears) were grown. Like wine, even the seasonality and weather can effect the flavor. Some hard ciders are a blend of apples, others are made from one variety. Some are basically clear and others have the beautiful straw color of apple cider. Some are very fizzy and others much less so. Experimenting with hard ciders is as much fun as it is with beer and I usually have a few different kinds in my beer refrigerator.
Most liquor stores carry at least a few brands including the very popular Woodchuck from Vermont with its many varieties. I've tried a few Woodchuck ciders and they were quite good. My favorite all around hard cider so far is Crispin Honey Crisp from West Coast apples that are sweetened with just a hint of organic honey. Served cold or over ice, it is really delicious. I don't think anyone that I've served it to hasn't liked it and typically their comments are how delicious it is. They also make ciders under the Fox Barrel brand and their pear cider is delicious too. But by far, the most delicious hard cider I've tried was from JK's in Michigan. All of their ciders are great, but their seasonal Solistice Seasonal Hard Cider is absolutely fantastic. It is made with a hint of vanilla, cinnamon and maple syrup (grown on their own farm) and is just incredibly delicious. Unfortunately it is out of season now and none of my local liquor stores have it. So I guess I'm waiting until it next winter to have it again unless I stumble on a lonely bottle somewhere. On a tip from my brother who lives outside of Boston (and despite that minor shortcoming) he is still a great and trusted source of beer information, I also recently picked up a six pack of Angry Orchard Hard Cider and tried it for the first time today. I had the sweeter cider (Crisp Apple) they make and it was really good and very refreshing. My wife really liked it too. It tasted a lot like fresh apple juice. I could easily have had a second one, but alas some responsibility around the house intervened and one was it for today. But no worries, there are still five others patiently waiting in the fridge for their time too. Angry Orchard uses apples from France and Italy and will be soon everywhere since it is actually owned by Boston Beer Company (the makers of Sam Adams beers).
A few blogs ago I discussed how beer can be (and should be) an essential part of the history curriculum in school and hard cider is no different. Hard cider is a direct link to our founding fathers, Colonial America and the roots of American agriculture. Hard cider was the quintessential drink of early America. John Adams was reported to have started each day with a tankard of hard cider and both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew cider apples on their estates and made hard cider. There is simply no doubt that the intense debates during the long spring and summer of 1776 over the wording of the Declaration of Independence were soothed with hard cider in Philadelphia taverns. Having almost polished off a 22 ounce bottle of Original Sin Newton Pippin Single Heirloom Varietal Hard Cider (6.7%) by myself while writing this last paragraph, I can completely envision the Committee of Five (Jefferson, Adams, Livingston, Sherman and Franklin) heading to some Philadelphia tavern and after a few hard ciders, saying "I love you man" or whatever the olde English equivalent was.
“He that drinks his cyder alone, let him catch his horse alone.” Benjamin Franklin